Ince leads England U-21 rout
England Under-21s cantered to a 4-0 victory against Sweden by out-muscling and out-passing their opponents in a friendly match at Walsall's Banks's Stadium.
Blackpool's Tom Ince scored twice, either side of a powerful strike from Liverpool's Jonjo Shelvey, to give England a 3-0 half-time lead. After 77 minutes a well-worked corner routine provided Sunderland's Connor Wickham with the chance to head home and finish the job.
Ince could have had a hat-trick before full-time but his shot was blocked by Alexander Milosevic, leaving the defender with a bloodied face. Man of the match Ince may steal the headlines but Shelvey and captain Jordan Henderson, both replaced at half-time, as well as right-back Adam Smith caught the eye during an impressive all-round display against an inexperienced Sweden side.
A seventh successive win - each without conceding a single goal following a superb 2012 - is an ideal way to start the calendar year for coach Stuart Pearce, who will be gunning for success at June's Euro 2013 finals in Israel, with talks over his own future put on hold until after the tournament.
Injuries robbed Pearce of Raheem Sterling, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw but it was still a strong line-up which took to the field, skippered by Henderson - on Sunday voted Under-21s Player of the Year.
Liverpool team-mate Shelvey blazed over a good chance early on after a lively burst from Ince before Henderson himself planted a free header wide.
It was no surprise when a dominant England opened the scoring after 10 minutes. Shelvey found marauding right-back Smith with a delightful ball and he in turn sent a teasing low cross into the box which was slotted home by Ince.
England were in complete control and it should have been 2-0 after 18 minutes as the impressive Shelvey somehow headed wide Henderson's cross with the goal at his mercy. But Shelvey soon made amends as he doubled the hosts' advantage, slotting home Ince's miscued shot off the underside off the crossbar at the far post after Smith had again been found in space down the right.
It was 3-0 just before half-time as Sweden centre-back Filip Helander brought down Ince in the area, Josh McEachran saw his penalty saved by keeper Andreas Linde but Ince swept home the rebound.
With his side already in the driving seat at the break, Pearce introduced Wickham, Will Hughes and Henri Lansbury.
Ince was denied his hat-trick on the hour mark following a great save from close range by replacement stopper August Stromberg.
Goalscoring opportunities dried up after the break as both managers made a host of changes although the Young Lions remained comfortable, with goalkeeper Jason Steele still to make a meaningful save of note. But the home side did register a fourth in the 77th minute, Wickham heading home Lansbury's deep cross.
Wickham was denied a fifth by Stromberg but England still ran out easy winners in front of a healthy sell-out crowd of 9,758.